Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Remember What Roman Polanski Did

There's a lot of hoo hah going on about film director Roman Polanski's rightful arrest in Switzerland. Here's a graphic reminder of what it is he's being arrested for. Click through but be warned there's lots of frank talk about the crime.

There's a petition that a long list of Hollywood directors have signed, urging Polanski's freedom which pretty much ignores his crimes. Did you know that's it's awful that a judge might've misbehaved through the original trial? It's true. Never mind the facts and Polanski's guilty plea. He should go free because, well, exactly why again? I keep getting bogged down in Polanski's crime: he drugged and raped a 13 year old girl.

If I boycott the work of all of those directors on that petition, it looks like I'll have fewer movies to see in the future. That's a price I just might be willing to pay.

Driving With The Roof Open

Had to take Rachel's car in for some routine maintenance - you know, oil change, tire rotation, and then a few more things - and it wasn't ready to be picked up until Monday evening. It just so happens Rachel needed an item or two of clothing so that meant a brief shopping trip for her and Clara and that meant I'd get the task of picking up Rachel's car and driving it home.

Good deal. Rachel's car has a moon roof but she says she never uses it. Something about mussed hair. Well, I have no problem with mussed hair so I cranked the roof open and hit the backroad home from Norman.

A fine Autumn early evening, too. I had my cell camera so that meant pictures.

Nothing but blue skies through the moon roof:

And the occasional set of power lines and telephone pole and part of a sign:

Since it was no big thing to stick the cell phone outside - whoops, almost lost it there in the rushing wind - to shoot the scene that way rather than through the bug-spattered windshield, that's what I did.

The bucolic countryside:

Looks like I'm not the only one enjoying their drive:

Yep, you're in Sooner country:

I got more than a few looks from people wondering what it was I was doing with my hand stuck outside the car's roof. Having a pretty good time, I'd tell 'em, if they asked.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Fair - 2009

We finally made it to the Fair this past Saturday and none too soon, too. We'd planned on the prior Saturday but rain kept us home. (I know, what would the Fair be without a little rain?) Emily's posse plans required us to start late so we didn't get out until the late afternoon. The late start and the beautiful weather meant jammed packed crowds and we had a little trouble parking. But we got there, got through the lines, and set the girls off on their own. Here they are, making plans:

Colorful, no? That's Emily on the far right.

Rachel tagged along with us. We'd thought those days were behind us but we had this one last year. Who knows what she'll want to do next time. We did the usual things and saw the usual sights. Something new for us this year: a 30 minute live Wild West styled show, featuring trained horses and cattle and rope tricks and Indian songs and dances. Very nice and an appreciative crowd in attendance. As usual, it's hard to tell which is more amusing, the exhibits or the people. Ate a corn dog and an Indian Taco. How better to spend a Saturday night?

I didn't take very many pictures this year. (Here's last year's post with more pictures.) But you can't go on the midway and not be wowed by the lights and think about all those other years you've been out here, can you? No, you can't:

And then the late night trudge to the car passing a surprising number of people who were just now arriving. Everyone happy and full of stories of what they saw and what they did. Another Fair visit for the memory books.

Lucy of Beatles’ ‘Lucy in the Sky ...’ Fame dies

Lucy finally, and sadly, succumbs:
Lucy Vodden, who provided the inspiration for the Beatles' classic song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," has died after a long battle with lupus. She was 46.

Her death was announced Monday by St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, where she had been treated for the chronic disease for more than five years, and by her husband, Ross Vodden. Britain’s Press Association said she died last Tuesday. Hospital officials said they could not confirm the day of her death.

Vodden's connection to the Beatles dates back to her early days, when she made friends with schoolmate Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son.

Here's my earlier post about the touching reunion between Vodden and Julian Lennon. I'm glad they were able to reconnect after all that time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Best Accounting Firms to Work For List Incomplete

Here's the list of best accounting firms to work for. It's obviously incomplete since the firm of Peter Terranova, CPA is missing.

This demands a staff meeting where heads, no doubt, will roll.

The Forgotten Man - Book Review

The latest in the Robert Crais series. This time, the decedent claims to be Elvis Cole's long lost father. Detecting ensues. Not as thrilling as his prior work but it's not intended to be. Instead, it's more of a backgrounder of his main series character with enough twists and surprises to keep the pages turning. The finale seemed a little thinly written - things moved too swiftly, as if Crais were running out of steam and he saw the finish line ahead and he made a sprint for it. Otherwise, nicely done, with a good twist in the whodunnit category of the genre.

(Funny what a difference a nearly a year makes. Here's my first attempt on the book. Going through a dry spell, reading-wise, back then.)

That's the last of these, I think, for while. I haven't touched his earliest Cole stuff and may not since they take place so long ago and aren't written anything like Crais is doing now. It'd all be back fill if I did. No, I have another of his which is non-series that I'll report on in due time but once that's done it'll be time to move on to something else. What that'll be, I don't know just yet.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Banned Books Weeks

It's the time of year that the American Library Association brings attention to banned books. One problem: it ain't happening. Not in the strictest sense of the word:
In the common-law tradition, censorship refers specifically to the government's prior restraint on publication. None of the sponsors claim this has happened; the acts they have in mind are perpetrated by private citizens. Yet the cases on the map almost all involve ordinary people lodging complaints with school and library authorities. Before Banned Books Week began in 1982, such behavior was known as petitioning the government for a redress of grievances.

Sure, the ALA has plenty of anecdotes how classic literature has taken from the shelves of school libraries but usually those books are placed right back. Or moved to a different shelf. Which, as I recall, the ALA is opposed to as well.

In this day of the Internet, there is nothing, aside from child-pornography, that isn't readily available to anyone who wants it. The ALA has been dining out on this meme for a long time - they began this Banned Book week in 1982. Maybe it's time they get caught up with the rest of the world.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

More Mining of the Literary Vein of the Dead

Goodness. I'm beginning to think this is a trend. More posthumous literature is on its way:
A new wave of posthumous books by iconic authors is stirring debate over how publishers should handle fragmentary literary remains. Works by Vladimir Nabokov, William Styron, Graham Greene, Carl Jung and Kurt Vonnegut will hit bookstores this fall. Ralph Ellison and the late thriller writer Donald E. Westlake have posthumous novels due out in 2010.

The posthumous works may generate as much controversy as enthusiasm. Many are incomplete or appear in multiple drafts, raising thorny questions about author intent. Others, dug up from the archives of authors' early and less accomplished work, could be branded disappointing footnotes to otherwise lustrous literary legacies. An unfinished murder mystery by Graham Greene, which is being serialized in the literary magazine, "The Strand," was slammed on the Los Angeles Times's literary blog, Jacket Copy, as "a far cry" from Greene's later works, such as "The Power and the Glory."

Certainly the estates and heirs of these literary luminaries can do what they want - and if I were a fan of any of them, I might welcome any work dubbed as new by my favorites - but I say leave the dead alone. The work they wanted to have published has been published in a manner of which they approved. Those who authorize these posthumous publications only dilute the pool of work that's already been created.

Tony Dorsett Pulls a Kanye

I'm not a huge follower of sports - I know, big surprise - but this caught my eye. Tony Dorsett rags on Tony Romo:
I don't know why on God's earth Tony Romo has been anointed a superstar in the National Football League. Tony is very young in his career. Not to say you can't be young in your career and be a superstar because you've got one up there in Minnesota in Adrian Peterson.

"But the thing is this: You have a guy who hasn't done much, and quarterbacks in the NFL, most of them go through this growing curve. He hasn't gone through that growing curve, but he was anointed this great player all of a sudden. Now he's having to live up to that. And obviously Tony has some deficiencies.

"He's a good player who's still learning how to play in the NFL, and I think the media has given him too much credit for doing nothing. He hasn't done anything really in the NFL to deserve all the recognition and visibility he's gotten so far.

Since I don't know much about Romo or Peterson, I have to rely on the writer of the piece to tell me that Peterson is a lot like Romo. The difference? Romo had a bad game. Peterson didn't. So that makes it worth Dorsett's time to lay into Romo.

Like the Kanye West incident, Dorsett uses his status and comes across as oafish about another player who, for whatever reason, isn't his favorite.

Poor form, old sport. It's just just not done.

Friday, September 25, 2009

We're Number 44!

In median real estate taxes paid, that is, and that's a good thing. TaxProf Blog has the link and chart.

Still, real estate taxes don't tell the whole story. States like Florida and Texas, while not in the top 10, make up for it with higher sales tax and, in the case of Florida, tourism-related taxes. There are no free rides.

Even so, with other taxes factore in, I'd still be willing to claim that Oklahoma has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country. Not bad.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hello, Morning Sun

A rare sight for the past week. The morning sun on the drive in:

Posted by Picasa

See it? Waaay down there at the end of the road. Camera limitations make it dimmer than it appeared but, hey, considering the relentless clouds and rain we'd had lately, we'll take even a pale glimmer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rachel Sings the National Anthem

Rachel auditioned for and snagged the task of singing the National Anthem at the girls' volleyball South/West Showdown at school last night. Have I got blurry video of the occasion that picks up several seconds into the song? I do!

I was shooting with my Sony camcorder in one hand but since the video format isn't compatible with any known video editing software I had to use the video feature of the still camera. That accounts for the blurriness and late start and - what that? Just get on with the video?

Okie doke. Here it is:

Look, I warned you about the video quality. The audio, well, hey, that's not so bad.

She did a bang up job and we're of the completely unbiased opinion that she should sing the Anthem at every occasion.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mad Men Wins!

An Emmy!

Our new favorite show. Here's the cast and others:

Look, it's impossible for Chistina Hendricks not to pose without a smoldering look. Everyone else looks happy or dazed. She burns.

Monday, September 21, 2009

U.S. Racism 'Everywhere,' says Dave Matthews

Poor Dave Matthews. How can a sensitive soul like him stand to even live in this country? So rife with racism and all:
CNN: President Carter said he thinks that a lot of the animosity directed toward President Obama is race related.

Dave Matthews: Of course it is! I found there's a fairly blatant racism in America that's already there, and I don't think I noticed it when I lived here as a kid. But when I went back to South Africa, and then it's sort of thrust in your face, and then came back here -- I just see it everywhere. There's a good population of people in this country that are terrified of the president only because he's black, even if they don't say it. And I think a lot of them, behind closed doors, do say it.

And yet the country still manages to elect a black President, black Mayors, black Governors, black Representatives and Senators. Still tolerates a black Supreme Court judge, a black Secretary of State. Still forks over millions of dollars to be entertained by black entertainers and athletes. Still does business with black-owned companies. Still grants high-falutin' college degrees to black students. Still -

Well, you get my point.

Opposition doesn't equal racism.

(And Greg Gutfeld points out that Mr. Matthews has the amazing ability to detect racism that's unsaid or behind closed doors. But unlike Mr. Gutfeld, I'll still listen to Matthews music - Gutfeld won't because he doesn't - because I'm hip and with it, daddy-o.)

Fall Begins

Fall is the perfect time for ruminations of the past - the winding down of the year, the gradual glide into Winter and all of its finality - time to look over your shoulder and see what has been and chart your satisfactions and regrets.

Nobody does it better than James Lileks so why even try? Here he's at his best when he details this year's neighborhood fair:
No face painting this time; no silly games where you get plastic flotsam. Off with friends, into the dark. Love and laughter are like water; you need them to live. And they run through your fingers no matter how tightly you cup your hands.

The shadows lengthen, the days start later and give it up earlier. What was all that fuss about the hot summer, you wonder. Too early to look towards the next one; we'll still have Winter and all of its pleasures to get through and then Spring. But Summer's had its say. Time to listen to Fall.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Informant - Movie Review

I didn't know enough about the ADM scandal to know why Steven Soderbergh's would take a funny approach to it in "The Informant;" I mean, the food giant was involved in a giant price-fixing scandal and had to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and restitution. Officers of the company went to jail. So did the title character. What's so funny about that?

But Soderbergh actually plays the material pretty straight, despite the funny goofy disclaimer, off-kilter graphics, and bouncy music. It's the twists and turns of the title character that make for the comedy or, actually, tragi-comedy as it slowly becomes clear just what this guy is all about. Helpless to control himself, he starts out wanting to do a good thing - or does he? - and ends up bringing down more than just his company.

I'm a fan of Matt Damon's, despite his kooky politics, and he does quite well with this role. Look for The Soup's wise-crackin' Joel McHale in larger-than-you'd-think supporting straight role, too. Highly entertaining and very well done.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

iTunes Art

Hey, what happened to my iTunes art? I downloaded the newest version of iTunes, synched my iPod and thought I was good to go. Well, I was good to go except for the annoying change in my album art. iTunes was good enough to make the judgement for me to swap out what I had with whatever it has. So the original art for Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks is no longer the Blood on the Tracks album cover, which is the source of those tracks and not iTunes, has been replaced with iTunes' album cover and a current picture of Dylan himself. Which, while Dylans's never been a matinee idol, he's really beginning to look a little skeevy.

Oh, I'm sure there's a way for me to restore the original album art but I really can't be bothered. I'm just surprised that iTunes, which prides itself in ease of friendly use, has taken such a controlling hand in this matter.

The Last Detective - Book Review

The latest installment in my tour of Robert Crais is The Last Detective and it's the best. This time it's the son of Cole's girlfriend who's in jeopardy. As is the case with a series character, being a friend or a relative of that character can be hazardous to your health. Well, you need something to drive your character other than a desire to solve a mystery and a close personal connection to the matters at hand is a good driver. Also, money.

In this case, the boy's been kidnapped and the reason may be because of something Cole did way in the past, yadda yadda yadda. Whatever. The boy's taken and the pursuit is on. The plot is unrelenting in its pace and Crais tempers the action with chapters expanding his characters and showing different points of view. Cole and his buddy Pike out-detect the police, of course, and finally confront the kidnappers, all in a very believable way. The climax is excruciatingly tense and suspenseful and entirely satisfying.

This is how this kind of thing is done.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rain and Traffic

It's been a while since I've posted pictures of my own. Yesterday it was raining yet again on the drive to work and Clara and I couldn't carpool since she was working late and, hey, look, I've got a camera on my Blackberry, don't I? I'd call that opportunity, wouldn't you? Let's see what I got. I've hit all of these shots with a light touch of photo-editing so they appear a little lighter than the actual dreary day was.

First stop, a stop light. Looking for a watery, glistening effect of multi-colored lights in the rain. Not getting it:

Ah, here's something a little closer to what I'm looking for. The ol' rain-on-the-windshield-and- brake-lights-flaring shot. You get the idea it's wet out there, don't you?

Moving along perfectly fine then all heck breaks loose. Or comes to a screeching halt. Yes, it's raining, so we must bring out cars to a complete halt. Traffic begins to backup:

Uh, oh. It's not getting any better. Might be more than just someone who can't handle water falling from the sky. You know, the same person who can't drive when a few flakes of snow dust the street. Looks like there's flashing lights ahead.

Red tail lights as far as you can see:

And headlights behind me as far as you can see:

It turns out, a semi-truck had tipped over and had blocked both sides of the highway. My later in the day comings and goings would trap me two more times in this mess which didn't clear up until about 2:00 in the afternoon. Nothing in the newspaper to tell me more about or to give you a link but I hope no one was hurt. The inconvenience of being late to work and to appointments pales, of course, to something like that.

Anyway, it was raining yesterday. Still cloudy this morning but breezy so maybe we've seen the end of this. Then again, the State Fair began yesterday so this could be with us for quite a while.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

End of the iPod Shuffle Project

I've reached the end of my little listen-to-all-of-my-iTunes-in-alphabetical-order project. (Here's the beginning. You'll find an explanation of why I set out to do what I did.) As I predicted, the last song was anything but a spine-tingling surprise: The 7 Stars of the Big Dipper by Mannheim Steamroller. I know. Kind of a marshmallowy ending. Hey, don't get me wrong, I like Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas albums and that's why I bought this one but the New Age-y stuff sounds a little quaint now. Though they do have a Disney-themed album out. Hmmm.

Yep, the last batch of songs after the y's were songs with titles that began with a number. (The last song that actually began with a letter was Zaar by Peter Gabriel. So, yes, I did have at least one song that began with the letter Z. How many do you have?) Doesn't seem quite right but how else do I think iTunes should list them?

Okay, I made it through 2,046 songs over a span of seven months. Not a lot, I know, and an inordinate amount of time to do it. Hey, I don't get to listen to my iPod as much as I'd like and there was a nearly 3 week dry spell there back in late June and early July when we were on vacation, so cut me some slack. What'd I learn? My Playlist is like a time capsule. I can just about remember each time, and why, I purchased or obtained a copy of the music I have and those memories are pleasant ones. And while I have a lot of clunkers, I have a lot more music that's just a flat out pleasure to listen to. Much joy to be had from a little shiny black box. We're truly living in an age of miracle and wonder.

Time to move on, though. Unshackled by this project, I'm free to return to my other playlists or just set the controls for shuffle and let it play. It's up to me.

Hmmm. You don't think there's a life lesson to be had in this, do you?


I'm just listening to music.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

L. A. Requiem - Book Review

The latest in my quest to read all things Robert Crais, L. A. Requiem serves as a stepping stone from Crais' earlier works about his P.I. Elvis Cole to his current, more mature work about the character. Crais expands his use of first-person narrative and moves to other viewpoints, exploring and deepening other recurring characters in the series. Once again, though, the bad guys include members of the L.A. police department, a plot device that's proving a little predictable. Still, the L.A. setting is vivid and well drawn and the detective work relies on good old-fashioned detecting and the action moves at a brisk clip. This one involves a the tired plot of a serial killer but a serial killer with a personal motive against one of the characters.

I'm continuing in this series, trying to move along in chronological order, but there are a couple of early titles I may have to back fill. But Crais has done a good job in extending his style and characters so other than the sake of completeness, I don't think there's any real reason to go backwards. Hey, maybe there's a lesson to be learned there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

David Byrne’s Perfect City

Not only do I like it when nutjob rock-n-roll types talk business, I like it when they turn out to be normal people. Okay, maybe David Byrne isn't a nutjob rock-n-roller but you may still be surprised to find his essay in the Wall Street Journal about what would be his perfect city:
There’s an old joke that you know you're in heaven if the cooks are Italian and the engineering is German. If it's the other way around you're in hell. In an attempt to conjure up a perfect city, I imagine a place that is a mash-up of the best qualities of a host of cities. The permutations are endless. Maybe I'd take the nightlife of New York in a setting like Sydney's with bars like those in Barcelona and cuisine from Singapore served in outdoor restaurants like those in Mexico City. Or I could layer the sense of humor in Spain over the civic accommodation and elegance of Kyoto. Of course, it's not really possible to cherry pick like this—mainly because a city's qualities cannot thrive out of context. A place's cuisine and architecture and language are all somehow interwoven. But one can dream.

Epcot's a perfect city for me but that shows you how out of touch I am. The one time I've been to New York tells me that might make a good second choice, if I could afford to live there. Ditto for Washington D.C. But maybe I should just be happy where I am. OKC has a lot going for it.

Byrne is also an avid bicycler and has a book coming out about that. You may also like his online journal. I first came across, and was utterly charmed by, it about two years ago when he was writing about the most normal of occasions for a father: taking his daughter on a cross-country driving trip to college. One of his stops was Dollywood and he wrote extensively, and honestly, about Dolly Parton's influence on pop music. Really. Of course, he takes the usual lefty jabs on occasion but, well, what are you gonna do? Skip over that stuff if it bothers you; you'll find something else you'll like, I'm sure.

Anyway. Rock-n-rollers acting like normal folk. I can dig it.

An Interview with Football Coach Tony Dungy

I know it's hard to feel anything but animosity towards pro-footballer Michael Vick but Coach Tony Dungy see something else in Vick's circumstances:
Tony Dungy's favorite verse in the Bible is Matthew 16:26: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?"

"In my 30 years in the NFL, I've seen a lot of that," says the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl and a best-selling author of inspirational books. "All the notoriety, all the accolades, all the money that people could get, and you see guys that aren't happy, and have personal problems because they haven't directed their lives toward something that's going to be long lasting."

In his case, faith and family provide direction. For years he has worked through his prison ministry and mentored kids and families, dads above all, and naturally his players. But the troubled soul he has on his mind, sitting over an orange juice at his hotel in midtown Manhattan Thursday, is Michael Vick.

I don't follow sports and I don't much like what Vick did with his dogs but he's served the punishment he was given and now seems to be seeking redemption. We ask for our own sins to be forgiven as we forgive others so it's only right we include the likes of Vick in that forgiveness. As far as we know, Vick's road to redemption appears genuine. Dungy sets a tough example for us to follow but, hey, who said being a Christian, or acting like one, was easy?

I'm just glad, as I'm sure Michael Vick is as well, for people like Coach Dungy. Redemption is available for everyone.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Raymond Carver's "Collected Stories" and Mining the Dead

I've already blogged about what I think of the publishing tradition of re-visiting the old work of dead authors - in short, I think the original work stands on its own and while I don't necessarily think that mining the vein of a dead author's work is ghoulish, I think it's in bad taste. Unless it's done well. Or I'm a fan. Like Hemingway. But now there's a new edition of Raymond Carver's "Collected Stories" and I'm no so sure we're better off:
Now, for the first time, a single volume—"Raymond Carver: Collected Stories"—offers readers the chance to compare the "canonical" Lish-edited versions with some of Mr. Carver's ­manuscript originals. Even a glance tells how drastic the changes were. In ­addition to paring ­adjectives and adverbs, phrases and sentences, Mr. Lish deleted exposition, altered endings, and changed characters' names—as well as almost every story's ­title.

The notes to this collection, contributed by editors William Stull and Maureen Carroll, have the precision of a formal indictment. "Mr. Coffee and Mr. Fixit": "Cut by 78%." "The Bath": "Cut by 78%." "So Much Water So Close To Home": "Cut by 70%." Such evisceration might seem a travesty, but if anyone had the right to take a firm hand with Mr. Carver's work it was Mr. Lish. As ­Esquire magazine's fiction ­editor in the 1970s, he had ­cultivated the writer and ­carried him over countless rough patches. Mr. Lish had also thoroughly overhauled the stories in Mr. Carver's first ­collection, "Would You Please Be Quiet, Please?" (1976), which was nominated for a ­National Book Award.

I used to be a big fan of Carver's - I guess I still am, though I haven't read him in years - but I gradually moved away from his dreary world. I came to admire more his personal story - his overcoming his alcoholism to find late literary success only to tragically succumb to cancer - and his poetry more so than his stories. But I think restoring his early work to what more closely resembles his originals doesn't improve his art; though Gordon Lish may be responsible for a great deal of Carver's success, ultimately, it was Carver who agreed to the cuts so the published work is his own. If he had wanted these versions of his stories to be out there, he would have made sure they were published while he was alive.

Still, it seems that Carver's style was continuing to evolve so I may be entirely wrong:
Mr. Carver gradually broke with Mr. Lish in the early 1980s, after the appearance of "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," and the sense of liberation is apparent in his final collection of stories, "Cathedral" (1984). The diction remains as workaday as ever, but there is a thickness of ­description that is at first ­jarring. Whole passages take an inventory of every object in a room—an unthinkable digression in his earlier published work. Mr. Carver's prose loses its chilly edge here. But it is an appealing development, as is the newfound sense of generosity and even humor on display.

One measure of Mr. Carver's achievement is that, before his career was lamentably cut short, he found a more mature sensibility than the minimalist posturing that Mr. Lish had ­imposed on his work. Mr. Carver feared that following the publication of "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" he might be too embarrassed to write again. If he had stopped, and we were deprived of "Cathedral," we would think of Raymond Carver quite differently today.

I'm not the person I was who discovered and loved Carver in the late 1980's so I'm not sure how I'd like this new collection. I just think it's too early to revisit this work and have it "restored."

Meet Teams on New Season of ‘Amazing Race’

Yay! The Amazing Race returns September 27th! (Click here to learn more about the teams.)

I'm a big fan; the places they visit and the goofy challenges are a lot of fun and there's always a team to root for. Better yet, there's always a team to root against. Phil Keoghan's a great host and reading his blog reveals he has a good and dry and self-deprecating sense of humor. What's not to like?

The Beatles (Re) Issues

This one of those good news/bad news things:
Get ready to meet the Beatles again.

. . . Apple Corps. and EMI will jointly roll out the long-awaited remastered editions of the Beatles studio albums on CD with Digipak sleeves as well as two box sets of the albums, one in stereo and one in mono. The same date will see Harmonix’s release of the “Beatles: Rock Band” game. What’s missing is the availability of the Beatles recordings for digital downloading. A statement from Apple said discussions about this “are continuing,” but rumors are flying that the other Apple may have something in the works, since it announced its annual iPod meeting will also happen Wednesday.

For a band that broke up almost 40 years ago, the Beatles sure have a lot happening.

Good news for Beatles fans like me because there can't be enough Beatles stuff out there. Bad news for Beatles fan like me because there's too much Beatles stuff out there. How can we keep up?

Really, though, it's about time. Though I'm no audiophile, on my iPod, I can tell the difference between the re-mastered CDs from the 80s that I've loaded and the latest Beatles CD, 1, and The Yellow Submarine re-master from not that long ago. There's quite a bit of difference.

Will I update my collection? I'm not sure. I'm quite happy with what I've got though I'd hate to miss out on such an historical occasion. And based on their track record, it's not likely they'll re-issue these things again anytime soon. Might be a good idea to grab 'em while I can.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

9 - Movie Review

9 is an amazing step forward in the field of computer animation but, unfortunately, that's about all it has going for it. The plot is boilerplate - a group of friends must band together against an evil force and get from one place to another in the most complicated of clockwork machinations and then Learn a Life Lesson from all the goings on - and the characters, while interesting, spring fully-formed with hardly a reason given or shown for their motivations. But I'm being too harsh. Though this is an animated film, it's not only for children and my misgivings aside, it's a marvel how the filmmakers pull it off and you can enjoy it for the technical achievement alone. For now, though, Pixar still owns the animated movies that are able to meld technical skill with great stories and characters.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mr. President Goes Back to School: A Controversial Issue?

The problem with trying to include topical subjects in a blog like this is that when I see something that fits, it may be days before I get around to posting it and by then the matter is most likely irrelevant. This is one of those posts.

Remember how upset a lot of people were about Obama addressing students in school? Yeah, I know. But it was just a few days ago and some folks huffed and puffed about it. The girls were out that day so it didn't really matter to me and, besides, as I understood it, Obama was going to address some pretty traditional topics: stay in school, work hard, be good. Who can argue with that? And, hey, if I'm going to be bored by a Presidential speech, no reason why girls shouldn't be.

But Adam Baldwin had the best take I've read about what the real controversy was:
Appreciating yesterday’s early release of President Obama’s speech and having now read it in context, I would heartily maintain that opinion, were it not for the ED’s controversial lesson plan.


Part I, Sec. 1905 of the ED’s General Provisions: ELEMENTARY & SECONDARY EDUCATION states:


Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction.

That raises some questions:

Is what the White House and ED submitted to teachers merely a suggestion for a lesson plan, or is it considered a mandated part of the curriculum?

If it is mandated at the school level, will districts potentially lose any NCLB funding if the lesson plan is not completed?

If not, can schools still mandate students to participate in the lesson plan?

If so, at what cost–in both classroom hours and subsequent elimination of otherwise state-mandated curriculum–will be the result of the ED’s lesson plan?

Is the lesson plan in any way controversial? (A rhetorical question.)

If a district unilaterally deems it uncontroversial, will the district automatically be exempting itself from any laws requiring equal time for varying viewpoints?

Are Districts legally and/or ethically required to establish and enforce standardized criteria on how teachers shall base their decision to show the speech and implement the lesson plan?

Will written consent be required from parents prior to any future screenings of the president’s address and/or participation in the lesson plan?

If teachers do show the speech and use the lesson plan, how will the teachers present them in a consistent, district-wide manner?

Baldwin, like me, didn't find anything objectionable to the speech and now it's past and, surprisingly, the republic's children have survived. Ho hum, really. But I thought we should get straight what the real controversy was all about. By all means, pipe in a speech by the President to schools. But let's not have the Department of Education dictate what lessons should be drawn from the experience.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why Not The Y's?

I'm getting really close to the end of my little project - I'm in the Y's now and how many songs can I have that begin with the letter Y? Forget that, how many songs can I have that begin with the letter Z? Okay, forget that. How many versions of Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go?" Two, actually. One my Mr. Dylan himself and a jazzy one by the lovely Madeleine Peyroux. A more jarring juxtaposition of tunes I can hardly imagine.

A word about Peyroux' version. I first heard it a couple of years ago on a sunny Spring morning in a bookstore in Dallas. All of our trips to Dallas are fine ones but to hear Peyroux' delightful version on such a lovely day lifts my mood to that morning just by thinking about it. While Dylan's is as bright and bouncy as Dylan can be, Peyroux' jazz twist brings something else to it and I had to look for more of her music. That's how she ended up on my iPod and that's how I've preserved that day in amber. And isn't that what we ask music to do for us? Isn't that why we listen?

Not long to the end of the line. Oh, it'll be anticlimactic to be sure, but I still wonder how it'll end. What will be the last song? I have no idea. That's part of the fun.

9/11 Remembered

Let's take a moment, maybe two, to remember the importance of the date.

Here's what I said last year and I see no reason to change it this year:
What sticks in my mind most of those days are the images that would eventually come of those people trapped in the towers who chose to meet their fate and jump. What they would think of those who believe our fight on terror is somehow not worth it? About oil. About getting elected. The victims of 9/11 weren't asked to make the sacrifice they did but they somehow managed. Can we do less?

And, like last year, I find that Lileks has the better take. So let's let him have his say:
It’s all so far in the past, isn’t it? The ten-year-old you had to sit down and console and reassure is off to college. The President is retired – seems like he left two years ago. The wars grind on, but as far as the front pages are concerned, they’re like TV shows that lost their popularity but pull enough viewers to avoid cancellation. (The video store doesn’t even carry the DVD of the first two seasons anymore.) We’re used to the hole in the ground where the towers used to be, and if they announced they won’t rebuild, but will pave it over and use it for parking, people would shrug. We haven’t forgotten that the towers fell, but no one remembers what they planned to replace them with. The towers they planned looked empty in in the pictures – shiny, contorted, as if twisting away to avoid a blow.

Right after the towers fell, people who’d never liked them as architecture wanted them back just as they were. Get back up in the sky! But it hasn’t happened. Even if they build the replacement towers, there’s still a space in the sky where no one will ever stand again. We could stand there once. That we couldn’t stand there eight years ago was their fault. That we cannot stand there today is ours.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good morning, Oliver!

Vicki's been good enough to start her last few mornings on Facebook with a song about the day. This morning's was Oliver's Starshine and I haven't been able to get it out of my head all day. I posted a link over there to the Rhapsody copy of the song and found this clip. Enjoy! Then just try to get pry the song out of your head when you're through. Impossible.

82 good morning starshine (Oliver)

[via FoxyTunes / Oliver]

Somewhere in Florida

My brother John - or most likely, his wonderful wife, Vicki - comes through with another awesome picture from another of their diving adventures. This time, they're deep in a spring - possibly Troy Springs - near the Sewanee River in Florida:

Posted by Picasa

Having posted this, expect an update soon about the exact location, depth, etc. But for now, the cathedral light filtering through the water is enough, isn't it?

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Real First Anniversary of this Blog

This weekend marks the real start of this blog. As I posted then:
This blog? Keeping track of stuff, mostly. The various goings on of the family. 'net prowling. Things that delight or vex the soul. I'll post 'em here and see where it leads. Could be fun, might even be interesting but no guarantees. Come around often and let me know what you think, okay?

First up, posting the pictures in real time that I've uploaded to Picasa from the computer and from my Blackberry - that is, the dates of the pictures will be the dates of the posts - so things might get a little strange around here for a while. Meaning this post will closer to the top while the others, though posted later, will be at the bottom, as if they were posted earlier.

Make sense? Don't worry. Just go along for the ride and let's see what happens together.

Lots to do. Shall we start?

For the most part, I've met my intentions. But I can do better. Hope you come around to see.

Labor Day 2009

Still early and no plans have been set in stone for the rest of the day but we've got a vague intention to get up and out and do something different than we normally do on a long weekend. Then again, we may do nothing at all. Don't we do enough during the week? Shouldn't we honor labor by taking a break from our own? We'll see. It's good to have so many choices. All we have to do is choose.

Yesterday we had Mac and Helen over for grilled burgers and fixin's and then just some good ol' fashioned sitting-around-and-jawing-time with them and the girls. The days where we can do this kind of thing are numbered so it's a pleasure to have them while we do. The weather was warm - high up near 90 and with no breeze, making it feel hotter than it was but nowhere near the blast-furnace temperatures it could've been. Made for an enjoyable day.

So we have the summer in our rearview mirror now. It's been a good one, likely the last of its kind now that Rachel's a senior in high school. Did we do all we set out to do? Not hardly but we did do a few things and that's good enough. Time to move on into Fall and the pleasures that'll hold.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Moore War 2009

The big football rivalry was markedly different from last year: Rachel's decided to not participate in Color Guard this year so she wasn't a part of the game. Instead, she and her buddy went on their own and Emily and her posse did their own thing. No role for meddling parents. Which was fine. All part of growing up and all that, right?

Oh, we weren't entirely left out in the cold. Emily and her crew did need someone to take them and drop them off and then, later, pick them up and bring them home. Which we did. A nice dinner at Freddy's in Moore and then on over to the festivities. Roving packs of youth dressed in their football rivalry finest on a pleasant September evening. The days are seldom better than that.

I had the pick-up-after-the-game duty and when I got the call, er, text, I headed out. A Fifth Dimension CD in the Sequoia stereo, a full moon sailing through the sky filling fields with pale blue light, the steady jabbering of five 13 year old girls in the back - well, maybe you get the picture. This time won't come again so I'd better enjoy it while I can.

And I did. After everyone was dropped off and it was only Emily and I and the Fifth Dimension celebrating the Age of Aquarius, I asked her if she'd had a good time. She did. So that was enough for me.

As for Rachel, she declared her time good as well when she breezed in moments before curfew. That'll be about all we'll be privy to in her life but details will slowly emerge as the days go by. This will be her last big high school football game; if she attends in the future, she'll be only a visitor to her glory days and not a participant. She doesn't realize this now, of course, but I hope she looks back on this as the best of times.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wallowing in the W's - an iPod Shuffle Update

Less than 90 tunes to go, I'm rapidly approaching the end. (For more about this project, click here.) A surprising number of tunes begin with the letter W, with many of them with the word "when" or its derivative "whenever," starting their title:

Percy Sledge When a Man Loves a Woman
James Taylor When I'm Gone
The Beatles When I'm 64
The Band When I Paint My Masterpiece
Hem When I Was Drinking
Moby When It's Cold I'd Like to Die
U2 When Love Comes to Town
Dave Matthews Band When The World Ends
Eurythmics When Tomorrow Comes
Sting When We Dance
Bruce Springsteen When You're Alone
Sting Whenever I Say Your Name
James Taylor Whenever Your Ready

The word can invoke hope or despair, a longing for the future or an ache for the past. Anytime but this time now.

Moving on, Cat Power's Wild is The Wind is the loveliest, and starkest, tracks I've come across in a while. They lyrics:

Wild Is The Wind

Love me, love me
Say you do

Let me fly away
With you

We're creatures of the wind
Wild is the wind

Give me more than one grasp
To satisfy this hungerness
We're creatures of the wind
Wild is the wind

You touch me
I hear the sound of mandolins
You kiss me
With your kiss my life begins

Like a leaf clings to a tree
Baby please cling to me
We're creatures of the wind
Wild is the wind

You touch me
I hear the sound of mandolins
And you kiss me
With your kiss my life begins

Love me, love me
Say you do

Let me fly away
With you.

As always, the lyrics hardly begin to describe the experience. Give it a listen for the full effect.

Psychedelic Saturn

An infra-red view of Saturn:

Far out, man!

Firefox Problem Solved. Sort Of.

I may have figured out the problem I've been having with Firefox. I'd installed Shareaholic which allows me to do the things I want to do - share a page with my right-click mouse button - and it may have over-ridden the normal right-click feature. That's my explanation, at least. I've sent the next post to Blogger using Shareaholic so it works just fine. It'll do.

Now maybe that wise-acre Shannon can get a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Firefox Frustration

Okay, I'm stumped. I'm still having trouble with the right click function in Firefox - specifically, I can't send a page to Blogger. I can do it fine in Explorer on this machine, no problems with Firefox or Explorer on other machines, so what gives? You don't think my IT guy is right, do you? Naw. Can't be.

I'll try some more tinkering but if I can't get this fixed, I may have to abandon Firefox. Stay tuned. (I know, the suspense is unbearable, isn't it?)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Whole Foods to Muddle Along Without Us

Responding to online reports stating Oklahoma City would land a Whole Foods Market, a corporate spokesperson told just the opposite.

“We do not have any plans at the moment for a store in Oklahoma City,” Laura Zappi, associate marketing coordinator for Whole Foods Market Southwest, said. “I will … update in case we have any new information in the future.”

C'mon, Whole Foods. Tell it to us straight. We can take it. Don't pull any punches. Don't beat around the bush. Don't let us down gently.

Walking The Dogs - 2009 Edition

The weather's turned off simply wonderful so we've managed to take the dogs for a walk at the park. (It's like this only without Emily. Emily can't be torn from her technology. Sorry, dogs.) They've yet to get used to their leashes - they still tug mightily almost the entire session but gradually remember that if they give themselves a little slack, they'll enjoy things more.

They're still not too keen on other dogs - size doesn't matter, they'll growl and yap at everything from a Dachshund to a Doberman. Good thing we keep a tight hold on their leash, huh? But a nice couple came strolling by with their pit bull, its alpha-ness rolling off in waves, and our dogs suddenly had to look the other way in silence. After he'd passed, they went back to their exuberant selves, their shame apparently forgotten but, man, pit bulls. They still don't want to talk about it.